Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

BLOG: Are you a conventioneer?

I have just returned from Vision Expo West. This meeting occurs each fall in Las Vegas and is the sister meeting to Vision Expo East held in New York each spring.

These are powerful meetings that feature lots of opportunity for education from some of our profession’s top speakers. I often attend some of these educational meetings but for me the opportunity to touch, test, challenge and criticize all the new technology is really the valuable aspect of these big conventions.

The networking opportunity at these meetings is another feature that cannot be understated. Although I welcome the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and classmates, the real value comes back to chatting with the educational faculty, the various vendors and with other eye care providers who are using new technology and discussing how it has impacted patient care and practice management.

Everyone will experience a large convention from a different vantage point. For me this fall, there were three themes that I explored for this meeting and was able to add a lot to my perspective on patient care and the future of optometry.

The first was the dramatic advances in OCT. Our practice has several of these instruments, and we have had to update or replace them to keep pace with the rapid improvements. It is not about the billing or coding for specific tests performed by these instruments; they may or may not pay for themselves over their relatively short lifespan. It is about being able to take better care of our patients and broadening the range of services that our practice can offer. We can now provide a much higher level of glaucoma and retina care and not only manage more of our current patients but attract new patients who value our expanded expertise.

This year my focus was on OCT angiography. This technology is available from several vendors and opens new doors for the management of chronic medical problems that lead to vision loss.

My second area of interest this year was in wide-angle fundus imaging without pupil dilation. This is another technology that is evolving rapidly and provides fast and comfortable clear images of the peripheral retina. We have long been fans of this technology and we use it in our practice every day. The newest versions of this technology are even faster and easier to use than what I saw at last year’s meeting.

The final area of intrigue for me at the meeting was telehealth, telemedicine and teleoptometry. These topics were discussed at a panel presentation, “Telehealth & Eye Care: Challenge & Opportunity,” and featured several prominent leaders. The discussion covered a wide range of definitions and examples as well as pros and cons. My take away from this session matched my initial exposure to this topic at Vision Expo East. When done well in the hands of a good optometrist who knows the value of “doctoring,” it can be used to expand the traditional optometry platform and reach more people with primary care service.

As with the other aspects of education and networking at these meetings, after learning and discussing issues, the actual instruments and technology are available on the show floor for hands-on experimentation.

Ophthalmic conventions and meetings are an important part of the course of lifelong learning that each optometrist must follow to grow and evolve. The annual American Optometric Association meeting, “Optometry’s Meeting,” and the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry are also important conferences that offering yet a different “ vibe” with politics and research aspects not part of the expo experience. Take your pick, but do get out and do some conventioneering. You, your practice, your profession and your patients will benefit from the experience.